Kanye West Says Adidas Is Dropping His Yeezy Slides, Here’s Why
Kanye West wants to change the sneaker industry. Of course, it has already done so, rewriting the rules for how big brands collaborate with artists and expanding the scale of fashionable footwear into enduring commercial success. Now he is fighting to protect the creations that artists create in partnership with these brands.
West takes aim at sneaker manufacturers’ tendency to water down their collaborators’ designs for products they aren’t actually involved in. In this battle, he went up against Adidas, the company that produces his Yeezy sneakers.
In an Instagram post on Monday, West called out his collaborator about his Adilette 22 slide, a design he says is a rip-off of his own Yeezy slide, also made by Adidas. He took to his social media to appeal directly to Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted.
“I no longer stand for this blatant copycat,” West wrote on Monday, surfacing on Instagram to blast Adidas in a lengthy caption. Although his position has since been deleted, his Instagram once again erased, the message resonates.
“These shoes represent the disrespect people in power have for talent,” West wrote. “This shoe is a fake Yeezy made by Adidas themselves.”
All sneaker brands are guilty of this. Virgil Abloh’s effect on Nike went far beyond the projects bearing his name. Nike has a handful of non-Tom Sachs sneakers that look a lot like Tom Sachs sneakers – there were rumors that this offender harassed the artist. One of the benefits of collaborating with an outside entity is being able to borrow their magic. But there is a line between inspiration and an internal counterfeit. West is looking to redraw that line. It’s a worthy cause that can help shift the balance of power between artists and their corporate shoe partners.
While the Yeezy Slide shape isn’t the newest, the similarities between it and the Adilette 22 are clear. The typical Adilette slide, a comfortable classic shoe, has a more traditional sandal-style footbed with a three-stripe piece forward. The latest take looks like a Yeezy-fied departure transformed into a one-piece and dressed in pale, earthy tones associated with West. The Yeezy Slide isn’t the only noticeable predecessor to the Adilette 22 – the first comparison that came to mind was KidSuper’s collaborative shoe with 3D-printed sneaker company Zellerfeld, which also used texture topographic. The Adilette 22 sits somewhere between the KidSuper shoe and West’s.
Adidas’ iteration on a long-standing existing product only came after the Yeezy Slide. The brand hadn’t set out to reinvent the Adilette like this until West energized this style of shoe. But the Adilette 22 slide that sparked West’s complaint isn’t even the most derivative design Adidas has produced using its aesthetic for non-Yeezy shoes. This has been happening for years.
In the mid-2010s when West was starting out at Adidas, there was a sizable line of sneakers online that closely resembled what the Yeezy line offered, although West had nothing directly to do with them. The Adidas Tubular Invader looks a lot like a diet version of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 750. The Adidas Tubular Shadow is essentially a budget and more accessible version of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350. An Adidas designer was told to use the same last as the mega-popular 350 when building new shoes. This kind of riffing has long been an annoyance for West, though he hasn’t always made it public.
Easily accessible Adidas Yeezy-esque sneakers made a lot more sense back when genuine Adidas Yeezys were so much harder to get. In the first phase of West’s long collaboration with the brand, his shoes were extremely limited. After signing with Adidas in late 2013, he started releasing products starting in 2015 with the Yeezy Boost 750, an almost impossible shoe to buy.
At that time, Adidas was filling a void by making shoes that looked like Yeezys. But now that Yeezys are being produced in greater numbers and aren’t too hard to get, West is filling that void himself. Fortunately, the practice of making diet Yeezys has mostly died out, despite the Adilette 22 slide and this next thing that looks like Foam Runner.
West himself has been transparent about his most commercial sneaker, the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350, which was inspired by an existing Nike shoe. His goal with the design was to subvert the ubiquitous Nike Roshe Run, that once popular minimalist model that is now mostly the subject of memes. He helped make the Roshe disappear, but his 350 also borrows from it, using a similar angled shape and chunky sole. The difference is that West pushed the shoe up, using advanced technology like Primeknit and Boost, rather than pulling it out. This distance in materials and taste helped the 350 eclipse the cultural impact of the Roshe.
Another difference is that West with this Adidas design was taking notes from a competitor of Nike. Pulling enemy shapes and tech is common practice in Sneaker Wars. Stealing its own catalog, however, as Adidas did with West’s work, feels more like a betrayal.
This episode with the slides does not reflect Adidas’ relationship with West as a whole, which has been extremely beneficial for both parties. They became long-term partners in 2016, when West signed a new deal that is expected to run until 2026. The Adidas Yeezy empire is a huge contributor to his billion-dollar net worth. West and the Yeezy line remain important to Adidas, a brand that currently lacks truly interesting shoes. His work at the brand was crucial to Adidas’ resurgence in the mid-2010s.
And this work wouldn’t be possible without the support provided by Adidas – many of the Yeezy shoes you love were created in part by Adidas designers. When Nike wouldn’t give West royalties, Adidas supported him by signing him to a new deal that offered more compensation and creative freedom. His achievements in sneakers would be far less without the support of Adidas. West himself said he needed the sneaker maker’s infrastructure on his 2015 song “Facts.”
Do you remember the “facts”? Here is the greatest artist of the 21st century coming out on New Years Eve to release a dissenting piece against a rival sneaker company. It’s a fierce level of loyalty that goes far beyond the standard press release copy about the “deep bonds” and “mutual respect” of Random Collaborator A teaming up with Random Sneaker Company B to make a series. limited by Unrelated Sneaker C.
This degree of connection and investment is part of what has made the Adidas Yeezy line so successful. He created the most interesting and innovative partnership between a sneaker brand and an artist in the history of footwear. With that, therefore, should come a more protected status for the Yeezy line within Adidas. West shouldn’t find out that a shoe that looks as much like his is hitting the market as it is hitting the market, since that should be allowed at all.
West’s message comes from a place of power in the industry, but it’s valuable to smaller designers who’ve worked with sneaker brands only to see them cling to their sauce long after a contract has expired. contract. This frequently happens to people with much less influence than him. What he’s asking is for a conversation to take place about this kind of work. If West can change that norm and change the industry again, pushing sneaker companies to a place where consent around similar designs is more common, victory will be more than just a personal victory.